Phil Scott Appoints Susanne Young, Al Gobeille to Top Admin Jobs | Off Message

Phil Scott Appoints Susanne Young, Al Gobeille to Top Admin Jobs


Governor-elect Phil Scott - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Governor-elect Phil Scott
Nearly a month after Election Day, governor-elect Phil Scott on Tuesday named his first two cabinet appointees — both well-known public servants with experience in state government.

Scott, the Republican lieutenant governor, named Deputy Attorney General Susanne Young to serve as his secretary of administration — essentially his chief cabinet officer. Young spent a dozen years working for the last GOP governor, Jim Douglas, first as his deputy state treasurer and then as his legal counsel. The 60-year-old Northfield resident has spent the past five years as Attorney General Bill Sorrell's No. 2. Sorrell, a Democrat, is retiring.

The governor-elect named Al Gobeille, a prominent Burlington restaurateur and chair of the Green Mountain Care Board, to serve as his secretary of human services. The 52-year-old Shelburne resident will lead the state's largest agency, which includes departments overseeing health care, public health, mental health, corrections, child protection, and services for the elderly and disabled. The Agency of Human Services accounts for roughly half of the state's general-fund spending.

Scott, who has been slow to name his cabinet, refrained from announcing his appointees in public. Instead, his office issued a press release announcing the news Tuesday afternoon. Neither Young nor Gobeille immediately responded to interview requests.

"Susanne and Al are both accomplished and highly respected leaders who share my focus on making Vermont's economy stronger and our state more affordable for businesses and families," the governor-elect said in a written statement. "Together, they will be a strong and dynamic team, working together to modernize state government, put our state budget on a more sustainable path and move our health care priorities forward."

Scott continued on Tuesday to fill out the team of advisers who will work directly with him in the governor's office, on the fifth floor of the Pavilion Building. Two weeks ago, he named a chief of staff and three other top staffers. Tuesday's additions include:

  • Director of communications Rebecca Kelley — The 34-year-old public relations specialist currently lives in Massachusetts and is returning to her native Vermont to serve as Scott's spokesperson.

  • Chief Innovation Officer John Quinn — The 37-year-old Northfield resident has worked for the state Department of Information and Innovation and served as chair of his town's selectboard.

  • Director of Affordability and Economic Growth Initiatives Tayt Brooks — The 41-year-old St. Albans resident served as deputy commissioner of economic, housing and community development in the Douglas administration and lobbied for the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Northern Vermont. He has also worked as a political operative — advising Scott's gubernatorial bid, the conservative super PAC Vermonters First and Rep. Kurt Wright's (R-Burlington) 2012 mayoral campaign.
Tuesday's picks suggest that Scott continues to rely on veterans of the Douglas administration and his own political operation to fill his administration. His transition team has largely been led by Douglas alums, and two weeks ago he named former Douglas spokesman and commissioner of forests, parks and recreation Jason Gibbs to serve as his chief of staff.

Gibbs, Brooks, Quinn and secretary of civil and military affairs-designee Brittney Wilson all worked or volunteered for Scott's gubernatorial campaign. Rachel Feldman, who was named his senior director of boards, commissions and public service, has served as Scott's lieutenant gubernatorial chief of staff. Brooks' wife, Nancy, previously served as the LG's chief of staff.

Gobeille is a bit of an outlier.

The former Shelburne selectboard member calls himself an independent. In 2011, Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed him to the newly created Green Mountain Care Board, which regulates the state's health care system. It was originally designed to oversee Shumlin's then-planned single-payer health insurance overhaul, which the governor later abandoned.

For the past three years, Gobeille has chaired the GMCB. He worked closely with Shumlin and the state's medical community to apply for a federal all-payer waiver — a plan Scott publicly questioned during the fall campaign. Neither Scott nor president-elect Donald Trump's administration has indicated whether the federal-state agreement, inked in October, will survive after the two Republicans take office.

Though Gobeille's recent political career has been tied to Shumlin's, he remains close to Chittenden County's influential business community. The U.S. Army veteran continues to own and operate Gobeille Hospitality, whose holdings include Shanty on the Shore, Burlington Bay Market & Café, Breakwater Café & Grill, and Northern Lights Cruises.